Constructive talks over hostages set to continue via BICom
Paris summit: Negotiators representing the US, Israel, Qatar, and Egypt held a summit meeting in Paris over the weekend.
- The process is being led by CIA director Burns, alongside director of Egyptian Intelligence Kamel and the Qatari Prime Minister Al Thani.
- Israel’s delegation is led by the Mossad director Barnea, the head of the Shin Bet Bar, and Maj. Gen (res.) Nitzan Alon.
- The Prime Minister’s Office defined the talks as “constructive,” adding, “there are still significant gaps which the sides will continue to discuss at additional mutual meetings to be held this week.”
- According to Israeli media reports, they discussed two draft proposals, from Egypt and Qatar respectively, and are looking to potentially merge the two plans.
- Both plans look to release the hostages in stages, in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned for committing attacks.
- Similarly, both plans call for a pause in the fighting.
- Hamas is demanding international guarantees that the war will be ended, whereas Israel has refused this option. They are currently only willing to pause the fighting for up to a couple of month.
- Furthermore, Hamas is calling for a complete withdrawal of all Israeli troops from Gaza and guarantees that Hamas will remain in power in Gaza.
- Israel is prepared to withdraw a significant number of its troops, but has insisted that it will maintain a military presence inside the Gaza Strip
- To move the deal forward, the negotiators will need to agree a ratio for the price of each hostage vs each prisoner. In the first deal, the formula was three prisoners per child or female hostage. This time it is understood Hamas is demanding 200-300 prisoners per hostage.
Context : Intense fighting continues, particularly in the southern city of Khan Yunis
- The Hamas brigades that remain fighting in Khan Yunis have direct affinity with Hamas leaders Sinwar and Deif.
- Israel estimates that in the last week more than 400 Hamas combatants were killed in western Khan Yunis and the surrounding area.
- In that time, the IDF have also exposed a large weapons depot containing a significant amount of explosive devices intended for use against tanks and armoured vehicles.
- This has been one of the most intense theatres of battle. Hamas had prepared in advance by planting explosives and preparing ambushes.
- The complexity of the combat is compounded due to the anticipated presence of hostages.
- In the northern Gaza Strip, around 200,000 Gazans remain there, including Hamas figures who are embedded within the civilian population.
- Israel is facing pressure to allow others from the north to return home. However, it maintains that this is part of the condition in return for the release of hostages.
- Despite progress above ground, the task of decommissioning the huge tunnels complex is much slower.
UNRWA: The UK along with the US, Australia, Canada and several other European countries announced that they were suspending funding for UNRWA following revelations that some of its employees took part in the October 7 massacre.
- On Friday, UNRWA announced that it was launching an investigation.
- On Sunday, the New York Times released more details, claiming 12 Palestinian UNRWA workers took part in the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7, including a staffer who abducted a woman, a social worker who distributed ammunition, and a third who participated in the massacre in Kibbutz Be'eri where 97 people were murdered.
- The report was based on Israeli and US intelligence, and included the tracking of their mobile phone locations, as well as intercepted phone conversations where they discussed their involvement in the massacre.
- In addition three more UNRWA staffers were also members of the Hamas military wing and received instructions in text messages to report to specific locations. One was instructed to bring with him anti-tank missiles stored in his home.
- It was also revealed that seven of the UNRWA workers were employed as maths and Arabic teachers at UN schools. Three others were a clerk, a social worker and the manager of the school's storeroom.
- Israel’s Foreign Minister Katz said, “We have been warning for years: UNRWA perpetuates the refugee issue, obstructs peace, and serves as a civilian arm of Hamas in Gaza.”
Looking ahead: The talks in Paris are set to continue later this week.
- In parallel, Israel has accepted the US demand to allow a UN delegation to visit the northern Gaza Strip to study the situation there and assess public needs so as to eventually facilitate a return of residents to the area.
- Israeli officials continue to insist that some form of operation will be needed in the Rafah and southern edge of the Strip to prevent Hamas with the capacity to continue smuggling and rearm. Due to proximity and sensitivity, this will require reaching an understanding with the Egyptians.